Archaeogaming is a blog on archaeology and video games, created in 2013. The blog discusses archaeology as featured in video games as well as interpretation of video games as archaeological sites. Games and virtual heritage are a growing concept within cultural heritage and archaeology.
While the vast majority of heritage institutions are only now discovering video games as an educational and engagement resource, video games are, in fact, heritage. A video game is an environment built to be used or even inhabited by digital communities.
Archaeogaming highlights the conceptual similarity between archaeology and video games, serving as a discussion platform for topics such as:
- Games about archaeology
- Archaeology as an in-game skill or character
- Design and functions of environment and objects
- Study of video games as archaeology
A particularly interesting piece is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Discovery Tour Stations Spatial and Temporal Locations of Featured Static Images discussing the pedagogical attributes of the game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the Discovery Tour static image metadata and points of interest. Learn more:
Andrew Reinhard, who created Archaeogaming, interprets video games as archaeological sites given their striking definition similarities. To begin to understand, we can ask:
what is an archaeological site?
A physical site built, holding evidence of its’ uses and significance, which can be studied.
What is a virtual site?
A virtual site is intangible with the same properties; furthermore, its’ uses and culture within the game setting are similar to archaeological sites. Video games and archaeological sites have more in common:
- data collection,
- social change through technological innovation,
- mapping (by players or developers) or through physical properties as servers,
- conservation, server maintenance or updates and patches
In the publication The Interactive Past Archaeology Heritage and Video Games*, Video Games as Archaeological Sites, Andrew Reinhard elaborates further:
“I propose the following points in an attempt to further define and defend the concept of video games as archaeological sites:
1. A video game is a discrete entity where its place can be defined as the space in which the game is installed (not necessarily its installation media). The past activity is the coding that created the game. Its elements can be directly observed and manipulated, part of the record of the game.
2. Video game installation media (e.g. a tape, cartridge, or disk) are not only artefacts, but also archaeological sites. Just as with real-world sites, installation media are bounded within the confines of the physical space containing smaller entities that comprise the media, adding a level of cohesiveness to all of the digital parts that make up the overarching game. These directories, files, structures/hierarchies are all themselves discrete entities, but combine to create a unified whole, just as a site is defined by its boundaries and the sum of its parts. The game media were created by one or more people for others to inhabit, creating a culture around those players who choose to inhabit the space of the game (e.g. the community of players in the original MUD in 1978). The game media become part of the archaeological record upon production and leave behind evidence in the form of material remains, as well as a documented history of occupation by both developers and players.
3. The game-as-played, which is accessed via installed digital media, is also an archaeological site. The game-as-played is its own world in which one or more players interact, and which contains its own digital artefacts, either created via errors in code, or created as artificial constructs to be perceived by players as actual representations of real-world things that can be manipulated in game-space. Past activity includes, at the extra-game level, updates, patches, bug-fixes, mods, and expansions. At the in-game level, past activity includes the actions of one or more avatars and their effects on the game-space, whether it be moving in-game items from one place to another, or the destruction or construction of something semi-permanent in the virtual world.”
Video games are heritage and ought to be acknowledged as is virtual heritage. While we agree that video games are similar to archaeological sites, perhaps future academic typology could be site research tangible and intangible. We find that new terminologies are necessary that encompass narrative, format 2D or 3D, spatial navigation along with their social impacts and communities. Archaeogaming already sets the foundations that inspires dialogue in the heritage, humanities and video games research; and offers fun topics for archaeology and gaming buffs (like us). We plan to explore the subject in-depth and delve into the Bibliography!
I want to learn more:
*Video Games as Archaeological Sites, pg 99, Treating digital entertainment as built environments, The Interactive Past: Archaeology, Heritage & Video Games by Angus Mol, Csilla Ariese, and Aris Politopoulos – we mentioned the publication in our article Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna): a fantastic heritage game; the publication offers fascinating chapters, which we hope to write more about!